David Bennett Thomas
rarescale records 003
If one takes the title of this disc to heart and interprets it as a series of moments, connected less by an adherence to orthodox structures and more by an intuitive compositional approach, one is impressed by how well it functions as a whole. This cohesiveness owes much to rarescale, the ensemble that performs the eight pieces included here. With some decidedly uncommon instrumentation grouped in combinations as rare as the moniker suggests, rarescale have a sound all their own, and David Bennett Thomas has composed some beautiful chamber works for them to perform.
There’s an undercurrent of unconventional soundmaking throughout the disc that reaches beyond rarescale’s commitment to promoting the alto and bass flutes. For example, Thomas asks the performers to blow into tuned wine bottles (Recalled to Life), play inside the piano (Elegy for Tu Fu), and imitate bird calls a la Messiaen (Short Suite). This is not obtrusive experimentation, but is worth mention given the approachability of the music. The presence of bass flute and bass clarinet gives some of the works a decidedly darker quality; the duo Moment sets the two instruments on paths that are closely aligned rhythmically and harmonically, making for a bewildering and fascinating listening experience. With Edifice for bass clarinet and piano, one is struck by both Thomas’s unique musical language and the expressiveness with which the work is performed.
A jazz pianist, Thomas brings both spontaneity and an awareness of jazz harmony to his concert music. The latter is especially apparent on Evocations, a work with particularly impressive piano writing. Sketches for Flute and Guitar finds another traditionally chordal instrument treated as one of two melodic voices on equal standing.
Donald Chittum’s impressive liner notes give the attention, thorough analysis, and sense of pure enjoyment that a recording like this one merits. The disc is a success both for Thomas and for rarescale flutist and founder Carla Rees, who is featured on the solo flute piece Steeples in My Soul. One could not make a stronger case for the alto and bass flutes than the one Rees makes on this disc.